Mobile Money has changed life especially in a country like Kenya where almost 75% have access to it through the mobile services provider. Safaricom has more than 14.5 Million subscribers out of its close to 18 Million subscribed to M-Pesa while Airtel Money, Orange Money and yuMoney also services a good chunk of subscribers through the respective networks.

Mobile money has been successful in areas where there was need of basic banking and also there was a culture of dependence like in Kenya. Funnily the idea of Mobile Money is also doing well in Somalia through the through the hawala which is mostly money lending through the mobile phone. The success of mobile money in Kenya and Somalia depended a lot on the culture of dependency and the strong need for working solutions.

A new idea is developing from the mobile money. It is called the mobile social money or as some friend recently called it, mtandao money. Mtandao is swahili for network.

The existence and strong drive of the social money was recently awakened by the partnership between Facebook and Paypal to transfer of money for exchange of gifts through the social media. This was not new as we have had Zunguz for a while. Zunguz is a platform where money is transferred through persons who are friends in Facebook.

A soft launch was recently done in South Africa as the two guys behind Zunguz are South African. Zunguz is different from the Paypal’s Facebook app in that you need neither a bank account nor an email to receive money through Zunguz Facebook app. You will only need to be on Facebook.

I have been testing the Zunguz Facebook app that I am really looking to have many of my friends who I share money with mostly come to it and see if we can send the money. The main challenge in services like Zunguz is how to get money to the user from the emerging markets. South Africa is not part of the emerging markets as it has a very well developed banking system so it is easier for Paypal, Zunguz and other similar services to forge partnerships with resident banks and electronic financial services providers.

I have money in Zunguz but I cannot withdraw it just like I cannot withdraw money from Paypal when I open a Paypal account using Kenyan address. Zunguz will need to find a way of getting the service working where it is needed most. I have talked to Robert Sussaman who is one of the guys behind the idea and he says that they wish to partner with M-Pesa because they are not a competitor to M-Pesa and M-Pesa is such a great way of delivering basic banking services to the masses.

How Zunguz works;

Game and app developers and mainstream banks in USA and South Africa have shown lots of interests in the Zunguz Facebook app according to the Robert. Zunguz is working on an open API to release to developers.

I know that Safaricom has had M-Pesa developers work on at least two apps for Android and iOS platform. I am just not sure if there will be an app for social payments. Such an app will become instantly popular for all users of M-Pesa whether in Kenya, Tanzania, Afghanistan or South Africa. The app will just need few engines of control like forex and regulatory and monitoring by security agencies for it to win approval of some regimes who fear any kind of disruptive technology.

Mobile payment has changed lives, is Social Media or Mtandao payments the next big thing?